High Achievers

Getting picky about choice

Mike and Adam discuss school-choice regulations with John Kirtley of Step Up for Students. Amber talks up the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Amber's Research Minute

“Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze? A Benefit/Cost Analysis of the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program” by Patrick J. Wolf and Michael McShane (Association of Education Finance and Policy Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, 2013).

Amber and Rob, sitting in a tree…

Mike and Kathleen are disappointed by the most recent Next Generation Science Standards and by Alabama’s decision to withdraw from the Common Core testing consortia…But if Amber’s discussion of a study on charter performance didn’t cheer them up, news of her recent engagement did!

Amber's Research Minute

Charter School Growth and Replication by Emily Peltason and Margaret E. Raymond (Stanford, CA: Center for Research and Education Outcomes, January 2013)

Switching it up

In a surprise twist, Dara Zeehandelaar hosts Fordham president Checker Finn on this week’s Gadfly Show. They discuss Tom Harkin’s retirement, wheelchair basketball, and the flap over the MAP. Amber intervenes with a word on late interventions.

Amber's Research Minute

Late Interventions Matter Too: The Case of College Coaching in New Hampshire by Scott Carell and Bruce Sacerdote (National Bureau of Education Research, Dartmouth College, University of California Davis, July 2012).

Ensuring that America’s brightest low-income pupils receive an education on par with their abilities has long played second fiddle to closing the achievement gap and catching up our lowest-performing students. This recent paper by Caroline Hoxby gives these high-ability youngsters the concertmaster’s chair, at least for a moment. In it, she and colleague Christopher Avery (of the Harvard Kennedy School) examine the college-application behaviors and college progress of high-achieving, low-income students (those in the bottom quartile of wealth distribution). They then compare these patterns to those of wealthy high flyers, or those in the top quartile. The authors first determine ability status by students’ 2008 SAT or ACT scores, focusing on the top 10 percent of test-takers (as fewer than half of all students take a college-entrance exam, this delineates the top 4 percent of students overall). Three findings are particularly interesting: First, most high-achieving, low-income students do not apply to selective colleges or universities, despite their potential for hefty financial-aid packages. Second, those who do apply to selective institutions are admitted and graduate from these schools at rates similar to their high-income peers. And third, those in urban districts are much likelier to apply to selective schools than those...

Inaugurations and graduations

Mike and Kathleen are skeptical about the President’s education agenda and newly released high school graduation rate data. Amber thinks about low-income high-flyers.

Amber's Research Minute

The Missing "One-Offs": The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low Income Students by Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery, The National Bureau of Economic Research

Education Next

This week, Ed Next’s Mike Petrilli was a guest on "What’s the Big Idea?," a podcast hosted by Josh Starr, superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Starr has been in the limelight because he has criticized the amount of standardized testing taking place in schools, arguing that there should be a three-year moratorium on testing while we put the new Common Core standards in place. Montgomery County is currently rolling out a new curriculum that is aligned with the Common Core standards.

Some parents in Montgomery County are unhappy that the county is hoping to limit tracking under the new curriculum. In the past, many students in the wealthy county were offered accelerated instruction in math, but Starr believes that because the new curriculum is more challenging, it should not be necessary to accelerate so many students. He also suggested (in the podcast) that some parents push for their children to receive accelerated math instruction for the wrong reasons.

In the podcast, Petrilli challenged Starr’s claim that students with a wide range of abilities (in math in particular) will be able to be taught effectively in the same classroom using the new curriculum. (The issue...


Mike and emerging scholar Morgan Polikoff discuss accusations of discrimination in gifted-and-talented programs, Quality Counts, and lightning rod/tiger mom Michelle Rhee. Amber contemplates whether multiple-choice tests lead students to learn or forget.

Amber's Research Minute

Genna Angello, Elizabeth Bjork, Robert Bjork, and Jeri Little, “Multiple-Choice Tests Exonerated, At Least Some of the Charges: Forgetting Test-Induced Learning and Avoiding Test-Induced Forgetting,”

Oh, how I would welcome and laud a nationwide education regime in which every high-ability student has access—beginning in Kindergarten—to teachers and classrooms ready and able to expedite and accelerate that youngster’s learning; in which every child moves at her own best pace through an individualized education plan and readily gets whatever help she needs to wind up truly college- and career-ready, whether that happens at age fifteen, eighteen, or twenty-one; and in which every teacher possesses the full range of skills and tools necessary to do right by every single pupil for whom he is responsible, regardless of their current level of achievement.

Math in the classroom
Millions of high-ability, academically promising youngsters are not receiving the challenging education they need to reach their maximum potential.
Photo by mrcharly

That’s what we should aspire to—and work to make happen. Alas, that’s not how many places currently function. Among the victims of our present dysfunction are millions of high-ability, academically promising youngsters who are not getting the kinds of “gifted-and-talented” education that...

Are our national education-reform priorities cheating America's intellectually ablest girls and boys? Yes—and the consequence is a human-capital catastrophe for the United States. It's not as dramatic or abrupt as the fiscal cliff. But if we fail to pay attention, one day we'll be very sorry.

Gifted education
You don't have to search hard for evidence that teachers and school systems are neglecting gifted students.
Photo by Krissy.Venosdale

In a recent New York Times column, I explained how America could benefit from more schools and classes geared toward motivated, high-potential students. Here, I want to look more deeply at why such initiatives are unfashionable, even taboo, among today's education reformers.

We'd like to believe that every teacher can do right by every child in each classroom. But let's be serious: How many of our three million–plus teachers are up to this challenge? The typical class is profoundly diverse in ability, motivation, and prior attainment. In most cases, instructors—under added pressure from state and federal accountability regimes—end up focusing on pupils below...

Responsible adults

Mike and Dara discuss bringing MOOCs to K–12 education, tiptoeing up to the fiscal cliff, and angry unions in Michigan. Amber considers all the angles of the newly released international achievement scores.

Amber's Research Minute

International Achievement Test Results (TIMSS & PIRLS)